May 25, 2006

France loses the slurp heard round the world--again

On the 30th anniversary of the Judgment of Paris, California wines top French wines.
In that slosh heard round the world, the 1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V. Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon scored higher than its French counterparts. At the same time, a taste-off of California Chardonnays and Chardonnay-based white Burgundies from France resulted in another stunner when the 1973 Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Chardonnay won.

When writer George M. Taber reported the outcome in Time magazine, California gained instant recognition as a world-class wine region. The French saved face by saying, "Our wines will improve with time. But these California wines will not age well. They will tire quickly, lose their character, lose their balance."

"Phooey" was the answer from Wednesday's tastings. Two panels of wine professionals -- one in Napa at Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts, the other at wine merchant Berry Bros. & Rudd in London -- simultaneously evaluated the same 10 wines tasted in the 1976 Paris event.

When the results were combined, the 1971 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon from the Santa Cruz Mountains finished first, followed by the 1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon; a tie between the 1970 Heitz Martha's Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and 1971 Mayacamas Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon; and the 1972 Clos du Val Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

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